October 4, 2015

Telemedicine: The house call of the 21st century

As the aging population increases worldwide, the need for medical attention increases. Indeed, with the rising prevalence of chronic disease and other age-related health disorders, receiving treatment can be inconvenient and complicated.

This inconvenience applies to the aged who have mobility or transportation problems. Independent living can become difficult, and many are obliged to move into assisted living residences to have vital signs and symptoms routinely monitored. Furthermore, the rapidly increasing costs of healthcare and the shortage of healthcare professionals in rural and remote areas are major problems that add to the complexity of care in this growing population.

Balancing the benefits and barriers

Although telemedicine clearly has a wide range of potential benefits including improved access to services, provision of care not previously deliverable and reduced healthcare costs, it also has some drawbacks. Some of the main ones include a breakdown in the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients, confidentiality issues due to increased access to patient records and organizational and bureaucratic difficulties.

Furthermore, older people might have problems understanding and operating telemedicine devices. However, with today’s tech-savvy older generation, this is becoming less of a concern. In fact, a recent study by Accenture indicated that 2/3 of of the growing elderly population would like access to healthcare technology at home. Nevertheless, minimal intervention by the patient should be expected to ensure his or her comfort.

Smart Hospital Carts

Hospital cart solutions facilitate a wide range of remote clinical encounters. Generally, they allow a physician to gather diagnostic information and interact as though they were actually with the patient. healthcare professionals can consult with hospital-based patients and hospital staff more rapidly and efficiently, thereby improving hospital throughput, physician productivity and quality of care.

Furthermore, hospital-based physicians may be able to use the same equipment to help conduct an electronic visit with a patient far from the hospital. Avizia’s latest telemedicine cart, the CA300, is equipped with QuickBoot technology that allows it to start-up within seconds, quickly and securely implementing telemedicine.

“With our remote access technology, we like to say that we provide the right care to the right patient at the right time with the right doctor,” stated Kerrie Hora, Director of Business Development at Avizia. “Our telehealth packages deliver everything you need to quickly and securely implement telemedicine; including carts and peripherals at the point of care, and workflow software to bridge doctor-doctor and doctor-patient connections, and to integrate virtual visits with hospital electronic health records.”

Helping provide integrated care

Video-conferencing equipment is one of the most common forms of technologies used in telemedicine to provide real-time, face-to-face interaction. Peripheral devices such as a tele-stethoscope can also be attached to computers or the video-conferencing equipment which can aid in an interactive examination.

For example, the CloudVisit Platform offers a range of telemedicine, telepsychiatry and more recently, mobile health applications, to support interaction with patients and caregivers and data. In addition to improved video-conferencing technology, the ability to transfer diagnostic information almost instantaneously has greatly advanced telemedicine. Machines such as Philip’s Telestation, incorporates the full scope of the remote monitoring process by relaying vital signs data and clinical information via a web portal between care providers and patients at home, facilitating an almost interactive examination.

These machines are also allowing doctors to monitor patients with chronic medical conditions, which can improve safety and decrease medical costs by preventing unnecessary doctor visits or hospital admissions.

Store and forward telemedicine takes advantage of digital imaging, asynchronous communication, and robust communication networks. Doctors can use cloud technology to securely share clinical information (e.g. data, images, sound, video) among doctors and specialists who can provide insight into a patient’s diagnosis. These systems can be used when the presence of both parties at the same time is not necessary. For example, in this approach, a referring physician uploads images of skin lesions to a secure storage site along with the relevant patient history. The consulting dermatologist then reviews the stored data and makes diagnosis, treatment, and planning recommendations.

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